Last week’s announcement of a new BSE case in Canada involving a cow born in 2009 has many in the beef industry nervously watching cattle prices and fearing border closures. This is a very natural reaction based on what transpired in May 2003 —the American border closure bankrupted many and financially crippled still more ranchers and feeders for many years.
My concern lies in the prevailing attitude of some producers that BSE surveillance or “management” should take the form of SHOOT, SHOVEL, and SHUT-UP.
According to Wikipedia the saying (also known as the 3-S treatment), refers to:
“a method for dealing with unwanted or unwelcome animals in rural areas. There have been reports of the frequently illegal triple-step procedure being used to dispatch mischievous pets, endangered species, and even sick livestock.”
“Shoot, Shovel and Shut-Up” showed up quickly in 2003, when Alberta’s then-premier Ralph Klein, in frustration over the situation, said that any “self-respecting rancher would have shot, shovelled and shut up.”
Many farmers and ranchers cheered Klein’s grassroots “common sense” back then, but it’s no longer 2003. The world in 2015 is no longer amendable to these sort of rural rules to live by. We now live in a time where food security and food safety are top of mind for many people not on a ranch. Although very few ranchers and feeders promote the shoot, shovel and shut up mentality, it’s still being perpetuated by some as evidenced on Twitter, Facebook and in meeting hallways.
Imagine for a moment that that first BSE cow had not been tested and confirmed as infected until 2013, instead of 2003. Imagine how many more cows would have been eventually infected by contaminated feed, how many more ranchers would have had their herds destroyed. In the United Kingdom, a total of 4.4 million cattle were destroyed in an eradication program. The point is, ignoring or hiding a problem doesn’t make it go away — it only allows it to spread, grow and make the fallout even worse.
Transparency on food safety is not only a priority of our global trade partners, but also of our domestic and international consumers. Activists and other mouth pieces alike prey on such fodder to showcase the agriculture industry’s lack of commitment to keeping consumers fed with safe product. I will note that it doesn’t matter that zero Canadians have been harmed by BSE-infected meat in the last 10 years — because it doesn’t matter — we live in a world of pseudo science and perception.
Don’t feed that beast with your rural ramblings. It’s time that this archaic attitude is one thing that’s shot, shovelled and shut up.